Sri Lankan religious tensionsA new Sinhalese Buddhist group in Sri Lanka has called for the abolition of Muslim laws about how certain foods should be prepared. This comes at a time of rising religious tension in the country
Not only at the grounds where thousands of Sinhalesegathered, but throughout the surrounding streets too, the hardline nationalistic speeches resounded.
The Buddhist Strength Force, founded nine months ago, used explicitly racial rhetoric.
One monk, its leader,told the crowd that "only monks can save this race", meaning the Sinhalese, who are about three-quarters of Sri Lankas population.
A poster depicted a lion, symbol of the Sinhalese, telling its cub: "This land belongs to you and its soil is redwith the blood of your people".
The group denies being anti-minority. But its youth activists wore T shirts denouncing the halal systemwhereby the Muslim minority certifieswhich goods are acceptable to consume.
Referring to Muslim clerics in derogatory language, the monk said what he calledChristian and Muslim extremists were threatening Buddhists.
He said there were 400such Christian organisations and a hostile army of 12,000 Muslims allegedly trained in the Middle East.
But hundreds of monks were ready to fight: "Our country is a Sinhaleseone and we are its unofficial police", he added. Both Muslims and Christians deny promoting extremism in Sri Lanka.